HC Deb 25 November 1953 vol 521 cc331-2
5. Mr. Lindgren

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when trooping was first reserved for the independent charter operators.

18. Mr. de Freitas

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when the nationalised civil aviation corporations were asked not to tender for trooping so that the independent charter operators could tender without fear of competition from the nationalised corporations.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. John Profumo)

The reservation of trooping to independent charter operators, so far as it exists, derives from the principle, established for many years, that charter work is only incidental to the main business of the Corporations. The intention which my right hon. Friend announced to the House on 27th May, 1952, that the Corporations would not maintain aircraft specifically for charter work naturally precludes them from tendering for regular trooping flights but they are not thereby debarred from tendering for ad hoc troop movements.

Mr. Lindgren

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he would agree that the statement by his right hon. Friend on 27th October, reported in column 2748 of the Official Report, was therefore inaccurate?

Mr. Profumo

As the hon. Member will admit, my right hon. Friend has already written to him fully on this subject. What my right hon. Friend had in mind when he made that statement was that under the late Government trooping contracts were always then placed by competitive tender, a practice which, for various reasons, naturally gave independent operators certain competitive advantages.

Mr. Callaghan

Would it not be better for the Parliamentary Secretary to withdraw the statement made by the Minister that trooping was reserved first of all by the Socialist Government, as that was inaccurate?

Mr. Profumo

I do not know whether the hon. Member has seen the letter my right hon. Friend wrote. I think that it would be wrong for me to withdraw something which my right hon. Friend said, because I have indicated clearly to the House that my right hon. Friend was trying to impart an intention, and if the statement was misunderstood the letter to the hon. Member for Welling borough (Mr. Lindgren) was intended to try to clear up the matter.

Mr. Callaghan

I accept that, but will not the Parliamentary Secretary say quite simply that the statement that the reservation of trooping for independent operators was decided by the Socialist Party was wrong?

Mr. Profumo

It did amount to the reservation of trooping contracts to independent operators, but, in so far as my right hon. Friend may have misled the House, I know that he would wish me to withdraw and correct the impression which was given.